Wearing a mask is one of the most effective methods for preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though wearing a mask in public has become expected, periods of extended mask-wearing may have an unexpected side effect: acne. Wearing a mask may not directly cause acne, but it can contribute to conditions in the skin which may increase the risk of breakouts. On social media, this phenomenon has been dubbed “maskne.”
Wearing a mask in public is a small sacrifice to make for the greater good, though it may come with some minor annoyances. Read on to learn more about mask-related acne and how to deal with it.
Acne vs. Maskne: Is There a Difference?
You may think of acne as a problem limited to pubescent teenagers, but the truth is it affects adults as well. In fact, acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne in adults is on the rise, affecting up to 15% of women in the United States.
Put simply, acne is the result of clogged pores. Pores are tiny openings in your skin that release sweat and natural oils called sebum. When your pores become clogged by oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria it creates a plug that turns into a whitehead, blackhead, or another type of acne lesion. In many cases, acne can be triggered by fluctuating hormones, excess oil production, diets high in refined carbohydrates, and increased levels of stress.
If you’ve been struggling with increased stress levels during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Neither are you alone if you’ve been experiencing an increase in acne. Maskne or mask-related acne is no different than regular acne, though it may be localized to the skin normally covered by a face mask. Wearing a mask can cause friction and the buildup of moisture on the skin which may trigger irritation and acne. This particular form of acne is known as acne mechanica, though you may know of it as maskne.
Five proven tips to prevent them
The key to preventing acne is to keep your skin clean and dry. Going without your mask isn’t an option, but there are simple steps you can take to minimize irritation and to prevent moisture buildup that might trigger acne breakouts during mask use.
Here are some simple tips to help prevent mask-related acne:
- Wash your face at least twice a day, especially right before putting on your mask and after taking it off. Make sure your skin is completely dry before putting on your mask.
- Wear a clean mask every day. If you use reusable fabric masks, wash them using fragrance-free detergent and let them air dry between uses. You may need to keep several on hand.
- Avoid wearing heavy makeup or too many other products on the skin under your mask. A light layer of moisturizer may help protect against friction, but thick layers of product could clog your pores and increase acne breakouts.
- To keep your skin dry if you have facial hair, use an alcohol-free toner after cleansing. You can even use it to refresh your skin throughout the day during prolonged periods of mask use.
- Give your skin a break from the mask when you’re outside, at home, or away from other people. If you feel moisture building up under your mask, step outside to pat your skin dry.
Your skin is designed to serve as a protective barrier for your body, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a little protection of its own. By following the tips above, you can reduce or prevent mask-related acne. Be sure to keep up with daily skincare as well – cleanse, tone, and moisturize your skin in the morning and evening to keep it clean, balanced, and hydrated. Second important thing is to make sure you sleep on a clean, hypoallergenic pillow (cleaning a pillowcase once a week is advised for those with problematic skin).
There is a skin care routine quiz that you can take to find out the best skin care regimen to help with keeping your skin healthy and strong.
Easy Treatments for Maskne
Whether you experience occasional breakouts or have been struggling to control a flare-up of mask-related acne, there is good news: treatments are available. In fact, many of the same acne treatment products you may have used in the past can be effective against mask-related acne as well.
Follow these steps to treat your maskne:
● Exfoliate and hydrate the skin. Regular exfoliation removes dead cells from the skin’s surface, so they don’t clog your pores. Exfoliate 2 to 3 times per week and use a hydrating moisturizer appropriate for your skin type after cleansing twice a day.
● Use spot treatments. Over-the-counter spot treatments like benzoyl peroxide help dry out acne breakouts. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, zinc, or sulfur.
● Try an acne-treating cleanser. If you have acne-prone skin, it may help to switch to a cleanser made with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help fight acne-causing bacteria.
● Add a retinoid to your skincare regimen. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids speed cell turnover which may help prevent clogged pores and the breakouts they commonly trigger.
● Talk to your doctor about prescription treatments. Severe or stubborn acne may need something stronger than an over-the-counter method. Talk to your doctor about oral antibiotics, contraceptives, or spironolactone which may help.
Though mask-related acne can be treated, the most effective option may depend on your skin type and the severity of your acne. If you have underlying risk factors like hormonal changes, genetic predisposition, or you’re taking certain medications, you may need to try a few different options to find the right one for you. Talk to your doctor about acne treatments to get your maskne under control. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/123732/